Rovers muzzled

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The Independent Football

Graeme Souness, the Blackburn manager, said he was satisfied with his team's performance in light of the circumstances of the last few days. "In the first half, our thoughts appeared to be elsewhere but our performance in the second should have been enough to win the game," he said. He was right.

Graeme Souness, the Blackburn manager, said he was satisfied with his team's performance in light of the circumstances of the last few days. "In the first half, our thoughts appeared to be elsewhere but our performance in the second should have been enough to win the game," he said. He was right.

In the final moments of an otherwise sterile encounter Matt Jansen's header hit the crossbar and a trio of other fine opportunities were squandered. Souness, though, expressed no disappointment. "The players were quiet in training, in the hotel last night and in the dressing-room," he added. "But they did themselves credit by bossing the game. The aura of Jack Walker surrounds the club and we are in mourning. It was always going to be a difficult and emotional day for us and we have a busy week ahead of us. Some things, though, are more important than football and that mourning will continue."

Crewe's players and supporters joined the visitors in respecting the minute's silence before kick-off impeccably then, rightly, the football itself took centre-stage. While it may be true that the minds of the Blackburn players were on more sombre matters, an early alarm call served to clear the heads when Alan Kelly was forced to save brilliantly from Colin Little's firm header. It was Crewe's only real chance in front of goal, but they earned this valuable point with a well-organised, determined defensive display The visitors, predictably, dominated the possession and showed the crisper passing moves, but Dario Gradi's men were keen to the tackle and the impressive Nigerian international, Effe Sodje, nullified the threats of Nathan Blake, the prime target of Blackburn's forward thrusts. Crewe's work-rate was impressive. While their own attacks were fleeting, the midfield trio, featuring the debutant 17-year-old David Vaughan, remained composed and acted as an efficient holding unit, disrupting the flow of Blackburn's play. Gradi said: "We made Blackburn look ordinary for periods, but we never really threatened. They always looked the side most likely to score, but we gave a spirited performance and we'll settle for this result."

As a spectacle, then, there was little to cheer until the last five minutes when Jansen hit the woodwork, David Dunn headed just over and Stig Inge Bjornebye, with the best chance, shot into the arms of Jason Kearton. Dunn also produced the best moment of the game with an exquisite free-kick from just outside the box which curled beyond Kearton's grasp. But the joy was curtailed when he saw the referee's arm was still raised, signifying an indirect free-kick. This period of domination followed the introduction of Keith Gillespie - for Jason McAteer - and he offered the visitors more width and attacking options. Souness must be relishing the prospect of the injured Craig Hignett, his main summer signing, joining the fray. But as he intimated, on this day at least, it's only a game.

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